All shoppers want for Christmas is...a Hybrid Retail Experience?

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All shoppers want for Christmas is...a Hybrid Retail Experience?

The rise of omnichannel commerce could influence the retail sector during the holiday sales season.

Customers are flocking back to the high-street as the festive holiday sales begin, increasingly drawn to brands that have excelled in providing a seamless online and offline shopping experience. They want to benefit from the same positive experiences, regardless of how and where they plan to purchase their item. Retailers are actively taking this into consideration and subsequently adjusting their eCommerce strategies to create enhanced shopping experiences for their customers.

Although, are they making the right improvements? Are retailers listening to what shoppers actually want, or just making assumptions based on what they think customers want?

We recently conducted a consumer retail survey to determine exactly what shoppers want from their online and offline shopping experiences. The results show that evolving eCommerce strategies shouldn't solely focus on improving online services.

Instead, it suggests that retailers should be considering how to implement digital innovations that can significantly increase sales within physical retail outlets. We discovered that consumers want a consistent, streamlined experience between online and offline shopping opportunities.

We know from conversations with clients that when it comes to developing new strategies, most retailers are focused upon their websites or their digital platforms. However, it's clear from our research that shoppers may be using websites in different ways than we may have previously thought and many shoppers want to see improved digital integration instore.

Shoppers want to benefit from the same advantages they can enjoy online & offline. This may be through buy-now-pay-later options, the ability to send items directly to a chosen address or even singular delivery charges if they are shopping across different brands owned by the same company.

Matt Sherwen CEO Corner speech icon

Why Social Proofing could become the latest big trend in eCommerce

Our research confirms that social proofing is potentially the next big trend in retail strategies, and one that gives retailers the edge over competitors during the holiday sales. Consumers want to utilise ways that they can share their shopping habits with others. Respondent feedback inferred "the overall shopping experience," "social interaction with friends/family," and "recommendations from staff or other customers" are missing from online retail outlets' platforms. We learned that almost four in ten shoppers (36.19%) would be much more likely or somewhat more likely to buy online if retailers implemented a wish-list solution they were able to share with their family & friends. When condensed into age demographics, this increases to almost six in ten (56.65%) shoppers aged 16-24 and 52.78% of shoppers aged 25-34.

The results were broadly similar when we asked respondents about the use of wish-lists in physical retail stores. Over a third of respondents (35.14%) also confirmed that they would be much more likely or somewhat more likely to purchase if they had the option to create a virtual wish list whilst shopping in-store. When questioned further, over 42% of respondents said they would actively increase their purchasing in-store if QR codes were printed onto product labels to help them to keep track of things they liked.

Now the Black Friday/Cyber Monday and Christmas sales season is upon us, it's evident that if retailers listen carefully to what consumers are asking for, they could significantly boost their sales, increase profit margins, and plug the gaps within their sales & marketing strategies. 

"Some retailers may be tempted to dismiss some of our research findings because they may feel that there's not enough of a majority to consider these minor adjustments, such as the inclusion of wish lists. But for a small retailer, a sales increase of 35% could be the difference between making a profit or a loss. And for a multi-million-pound retailer, an increase of a similar size could result in hundreds of thousands of pounds of additional profit".

Matt Sherwen CEO Corner speech icon

Unlocking the potential of QR codes could bridge the gap between your online & offline retail channels

As we touched upon earlier, we asked our respondents if QR codes printed on product labels could aid shoppers in keeping track of items that they like when shopping in-store. Over four in ten people said that having a visible QR code would make them much more likely or somewhat more likely to make a purchase.

It's important to remember that QR codes are more than just helping a customer keep track of an item that they've spotted and want to remember.

QR codes can be integrated with your website to enhance the purchasing process.

For example, QR codes could help a customer find out if the product is available in any other sizes or colours. It can sync with your ordering systems, enabling customers to find a relevant item even if it's out of stock in-store. A QR code could provide customers with styling suggestions or other product usage options. It could also link to virtual events hosted on your website with influencers or other third parties, such as charitable relationships. QR codes could even help customers purchase an item online and have it shipped directly to a different address while physically standing in your store. This could help them overcome critical shopping barriers (such as long queues or lack of stock ability). Still, it could be essential to improving the shopping experience during hectic shopping periods. The more relaxed and stress-free shoppers feel, the more likely they are to return to you as a repeat customer.

As you would expect, younger people are far more attuned with the potential impact of using digital technology in-store when broken down generationally. When questioned, over six in ten shoppers (62.74%) between the ages of 16-24 would welcome the widespread use of QR codes in shops, along with 56.95% of those aged 25-34.

In our opinion, this confirms the importance of taking a mobile-first approach to your websites and online platforms. Creating QR codes is actually much quicker and easier than you think. There are many free QR code generators available online, and even the premium generators require minimal investment from retailers. Our research shows that if they are used strategically, they can lead to a significant increase in sales.

However, the use of a QR code on a product tag will depend on your website performing to a high-standard for those accessing via mobile phones. You need to ensure that the proper infrastructure is in place so users can quickly sign in to their account and save items of interest, purchase additional online orders, and get informed about upcoming sales events or usage options. If the mobile version of your website is challenging to navigate, then a shopper may quickly log-off, and neglect to complete their purchase - a detrimental result to your cart conversion rates.

Why not provide a "buy now & send later" option instore?

There is one standout reason why online shopping is so popular - convenience.

We're able to shop on any website at any time of day or night, able to determine who exactly we're buying for and what address we can receive our items at.

Online retail giants such as Amazon and MoonPig hastily understood that consumers are not always shopping for themselves. As a result, they have incorporated an ability to save multiple shipping addresses into their systems. If you're buying a birthday or Christmas present, these multiple addresses provide frictionless checkouts and improve the ability to navigate the sales funnel. Our research has shown that 35% of respondents view this as one of the things that they like most about online shopping – second only to the convenience factor.

Is this something that we could consider incorporating into physical retail shops?

In some sectors, this is already the norm.

Besides, if you're purchasing a significant luxury item such as a sofa or another piece of furniture, you're likely to order the item instore to be delivered at a later date.

But could this be incorporated into other retail sectors? Our research has shown us that shoppers would welcome the opportunity to physically shop instore to experience an item prior to making an order for a subsequent delivery. Almost a third of respondents (29.77%) told us that they believe retailers should implement a new 'hybrid' model of online and offline shopping, which includes an "opportunity to buy in-store and have delivered directly to a chosen address."

And over 53% of our respondents told us that they would be much more likely or somewhat more likely to purchase if they could buy instore and deliver to a different address. For those shopping on busy holiday periods, this could enhance the overall shopping experience for customers and improve your conversion rate, in-turn substantially increasing sales and profits.

Furthermore, if customers are physically purchasing instore, there's greater scope to profit from additional up-sells, cross-sells, or spontaneous purchases.

A retailers' ability to incorporate a "buy now, send later" approach within retail stores may depend upon their wider infrastructure. For example, retailers may need to consider whether sent items are taken directly from the shelves of individual stores, dispatched from a central warehouse, or directly from the manufacturer. Some digital platforms may allow you to turn this function quickly and easily – after all, it shares similarities with click and collect options.

Please get in touch with us if you're looking for a new digital platform or would like to benefit from consultation advice to establish whether your retail business offers what your customers are looking for.

Our detailed understanding of different shopper demographics means that we can provide independent advice to align your business priorities with your customers' wants and needs.

To find out how we can help you or for more information about our research, please email hello@sherwen.com or phone 020 4566 9773